Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A brief thought on tragedy

Last week's school shooting in Connecticut was horrific - no sane person could think otherwise - and I can't even begin to imagine the pain the families of the dead are feeling. And yet, every time there is a school shooting or other mass tragedy in this country, every time the death of one celebrity or beautiful person obsesses the nation, I can't help but wonder why we do not feel the same pain for all the hundreds of people - many of them children - who die every day of wars, starvation and disease around the world. The media has spent countless hours discussing the shooting and what can be done to prevent such horrors in the future; every single NPR show I listen to (well, not Car Talk) has had stories on the victims, or gun control, or mental illness. I hope that all this attention makes a difference this time, that changes to the national consciousness regarding guns and violence are permanent. But what would happen if we spent that energy and compassion on improving society without a tragedy? If we tried to make the world better before we go through so much pain?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mr. Kicky

We could all use a laugh, or at least a smile, so here is a video of Malcolm, aka Mr. Kicky, abusing his three men in a boat.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving recap

Malcolm wasn't thrilled with the overalls, but they are just so darn cute!

Here are some pictures from our busy Thanksgiving weekend. On Thanksgiving we headed to a friend's house for authentic homemade Louisiana gumbo and other deliciousness. No, no turkey this year. I think in the 11 years we've been married, Benjamin and I have had turkey 4 times for Thanksgiving, and two of those were when my parents came to visit and my mother did the cooking. Usually, if it is just going to be us, we make enchiladas.  This year, I was happy to not have to do any of the cooking, since I would have had to do it around Malcolm. I did bake a pumpkin pie, using store-bought pumpkin for the first time in probably 13 years, and it was a complete failure. The pumpkin puree tasted like the container it came in - musty cardboard - and was pretty much inedible. Major bummer! And it was a reputable organic brand too. I guess that will teach me not to cut so many corners again! Anyway, on Saturday we roasted a chicken and I made an apple pie to make up for the lack of pie leftovers.

Benjamin and his helper elf.
Since it is fall here in Arkansas, we took some time to rake leaves. We got 10 or 12 giant bags, and didn't even finish the backyard, not to mention the front. There are still plenty for my dad to rake in a few weeks when my parents arrive for Christmas.

And we took Malcolm on his first of what we hope will be many post-Thanksgiving hikes. We figured he wouldn't have the stamina (or patience) for a long hike, so we chose Woolly Hollow State Park. The hike there is only about 3 miles, and the drive is about an hour from Maumelle. We've done it before and have enjoyed it. This time, the weather was almost perfect, just a little windy and cold up on the exposed ridge side.

If you look closely at this picture, you will see the death grip Malcolm had on my finger. He sucked on that finger for much of the hike, so much so that I had drool running down my palm and dripping as I hiked. Ah, babies!


 I did convince him to suck his own fingers at some point.

In the end, we didn't make it the entire 3 miles - he was getting too hungry and tired - but he did pretty darn well. He definitely enjoyed facing forward in his new carrier that I got from our neighbors - so much easier to see out that way.  I just bought a backpack style carrier that we will be using once he is able to sit up on his own. Then he will be able to play with our hair while we hike!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fall is definitely here

The weather has taken a cold turn - actually a bit colder than normal for this time of year, not that I am complaining - and the leaves are falling. Oh, the leaves. Oak trees hold a lot of leaves, and as you may recall from previous years' complaints, we have a lot of oak trees around our house. When my dad visited in October, he cleaned up all the leaves currently on the ground (some of which we had raked into piles in July, since they fell early due to drought), and a day or two later, the lawn was covered again. This past weekend I got out the mower and rake and cleaned up the front lawn. Thanks to the incoming cold front and the wind driving it, by mid-afternoon the lawn looked untouched. The only way you could tell I had done anything was that the grass under the leaves (what there is of it) was now tidy. The back yard is a solid carpet of leaves, and is likely to stay that way for a while, since neither of us has much time to do anything about it. Well, I have time during the day, since I am here all the time, but I can't exactly mow with Malcolm strapped to my chest, and raking with him puts a lot of strain on my back.

I have been reading a bit more lately. I found a new series at the library - the Samuel Johnson and Boswell series by John Connolly, about a boy and his dog who find themselves going up against demons from Hell who want to take over the world using a portal created by the Large Hadron Collider (it's funny, really!). I accidentally read the second book, The Infernals, first, which is something I usually would never do, but since I had already started it and didn't seem to be missing that much I kept on. Now Benjamin and I are reading the first book, The Gates, together and enjoying it. There are only two so far, but I wouldn't be surprised if it continues eventually.

Last night the UPS man delivered not one but two new books I have been waiting for - Soulless: the Manga Volume 2 by Gail Carriger, a manga version of her Parasol Protectorate series; and The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest, the newest book in her Clockwork Century series. I read the manga last night in one go, after Malcolm was in bed, and I will be starting the other today.

And, since this blog seems to be turning into an all-Malcolm blog, here is a recent picture:

Look Mama - I can grab my pants now!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween, now with Malcolm

I am not really much of a Halloween person - the best part for me was always the candy, and now that I am an adult I can just buy it for myself - and we don't have any parties to go to, so Malcolm does not have a costume this year. He will just have to be a cute baby instead. That said, babies in costumes are generally adorable. One year, Benjamin and I were at a minor league hockey game around Halloween, and there was a costume contest, where the best costume was judged by the applause of the fans. There were several adults with perfectly serviceable costumes, and a small baby in a Tigger costume. It was no contest - the baby in the Tigger costume won hands down. The applause for the adults was polite; the applause for the baby in the Tigger costume (I keep repeating the whole phrase because that is how it is seared into my memory) was thunderous. You kind of had to feel a little sorry for the adults, because they never had a chance.

And here is Malcolm with Oliver. Oliver is sort of curled up here, so you can't get a great measurement, but you can tell that Malcolm has gained on him quite a bit since the last time they were pictured together.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book Review: No Quest for the Wicked

No Quest For The WickedGuess what! I have had some time to read lately. Here is a review of the most recent book I read. It is book 6 of a series that I really enjoy - sort of Harry Potter meets Sex in the City, sort of. The first four books were published the traditional way, but the publishers didn't want book 5 (although fans like me certainly did), so the author recently decided to e-publish it and any further books herself. Yay!

No Quest For The Wicked by Shanna Swendson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On her blog, Swendson mentioned that she thought of the previous book as being like a season finale of a TV show, while this one is the start of season two. That seems like a pretty apt comparison. The bad guys from the first 5 books are gone and the main characters have to deal with the fall-out from the magical battle that ended book 5 as well as start on new adventures with new opponents.

After the major revelations and changes at the end of book 5, the excitement has died down at MSI, and Katie is bored - now that the competition is gone, there is very little need for a marketing department. Her boredom quickly disappears when Owen discovers that a dangerous magical object has just turned up in New York, and they may be the only ones who can find it before it causes major magical chaos.

They set off on a quest to find and neutralize the object, along with Sam the gargoyle, their friend Rod, a gnome, a rogue elf, and Katie's magical and somewhat crazy grandmother, who has suddenly arrived in New York from Texas. It is a whirlwind day of chases, near-misses and danger as they have to evade the other magical groups hunting for the object as well.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Grandpa Comes to Visit

My dad came to visit Malcolm for a week. It was great having him here, and we got to do a lot of different things together.

Like fencing. That's me up there, still nice and rusty after almost 8 months off. But I did get at least one touch.

Pretty soon we will have a foil in his hands too!

Grandpa and Mal, taking it all in.

I also got to play in a tennis tournament - only the third time I've been on a court since the end of April, when I stopped playing because of the heat. The heat was not a problem on Saturday. It was 47 and windy for our 9 AM match.

You will notice I am the only one not all bundled up, and that is only because too many clothes distract me. I'd rather be cold than bundled while playing... Sort of.

The second match was inside and much warmer.

We also went on quite a few walks. Here, Malcolm is in the Snuggli my parents used for me 33 years ago!

Another walk, this time at a local park.

Benjamin thinks he's smiling too much, but I think it is a pretty good family picture.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Two Months

Malcolm is two months old today! I have so many thoughts about these months rolling around in my head - mostly about how it is so much harder than I thought it would be, but in different ways than I expected - but I'm not sure how to express them. I am discovering that I seem to have to learn the same lessons over and over again in life, for every new challenge I take on. For instance, "experts" are only so useful in any given situation, and all advice must be considered in light of your own personal situation. Also - I don't have to solve every problem, reinvent the wheel, on my own. And I have learned that I have some really, really good friends.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Seven weeks later

In the NICU, a few hours after birth
Some days I can hardly believe it has only been 7 weeks (tomorrow) since Malcolm was born, and other days I can't believe it has already been 7 weeks. The nightmare of the early days when Malcolm was in the NICU is receding, and while I remember it and could tell you all the details, the emotional impact is no longer so vivid in my mind. Neither is birth or the first couple of weeks at home, sitting on the couch watching the Olympics with a little tiny baby. I guess that is how it is with memory normally, but in our day to day lives we don't really pay that close of attention or have anything worth looking back on in the same way, so we don't notice the memories getting a little hazy. Nor do most events and people we remember change so rapidly as with a new baby. He is different every single day.

7 Weeks, minus one day
We have been walking Miikka around the neighborhood almost every morning, usually with Malcolm in the baby carrier strapped to my chest. I'm learning to read his cues; he's starting to make actual grins and cooing noises. He's sleeping a lot longer at night now, so I only feel like crying in frustration or exhaustion every couple of days, instead of several times a day. I am so looking forward to watching him as he continues to develop and grow!

Benjamin X and Benjamin XI contemplating each other

Thursday, August 23, 2012

5 Weeks Old

Malcolm is 5 weeks old as of yesterday. I have a hard time believing it has been only 5 weeks. So much has happened in his development...and I am somewhat sleep deprived, so time sometimes gets away from me.

Anyway, he is eating well (like, all the time - it is hard not to feel like a walking buffet at times), gaining weight, and doing all the things babies are supposed to be doing at this point. After the worries and stress of the first week, we are grateful for normal.

Compare to the picture from 2 weeks old... Mal's gaining on Oliver!
 I don't want this to become solely a baby blog, but I have, understandably, not been doing much beyond being a mother. As a result, posting here will continue to be rather light for a while. But never fear - I will be returning to tennis soon, and I am actually managing to read quite a bit (mostly while nursing - see above re Malcolm eating well) so I might have the occasional book review. And once he starts sleeping longer, or at least allowing me to put him down once in a while, I might actually start baking again.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Malcolm

Here are some more pictures of Malcolm, now that he has been home for a week. We are all getting adjusted to the new reality - lack of sleep, changing diapers in our sleep, someone new to care for and love - and watching the Olympics. Now, if only it would stop being so hot, so we could take him out for walks. Seriously, it was 111 yesterday, the 3rd hottest day on record in Little Rock - not just for this year, but since they have been keeping records. Ugh.

Not sure about the paparazzi.

Some day, he will be bigger than Oliver, and it will be hard to believe he was ever this small. But not yet.

What a big yawn for such a little boy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Introducing Benjamin Malcolm Rider

So, yeah, I haven't updated the blog for a while. But I have a very good reason this time - I have been rather busy giving birth and all, and dealing with a whole lot of unexpected side trips on the journey from pregnant lady to mother.
A few minutes old
My water broke around 2 AM last Tuesday, almost 3 weeks early, and as we had planned, I spent most of the day at home, waiting for active labor. For most of the day, I was without contractions or other problems. Obviously, I hadn't been planning on having a baby that day - I was supposed to have a baby shower at work, for Pete's sake - so I had a few things I wanted to take care of before heading to the hospital. I cleaned Kirby's cage and processed half a box of peaches for the dehydrator. What?! I didn't want them to go to waste! In the late afternoon, my contractions started, so we headed to the hospital. By 8:30 or 9 PM, my contractions hadn't really gotten very strong, so the doctor on call (who was not my normal doctor) said I could have an Ambien and try to sleep until morning, when my regular doctor would be available. However, the Ambien relaxed me to the point that my contractions started getting pretty strong. Since Ambien is supposed to put deeply asleep (it is one of the sleep drugs that makes people sleep eat and drive and other wacky things) I spent 3 or 4 hours in a hallucinatory sort of state, kind of awake but also kind of dreaming and seeing things during contractions and passed out in between. I started pushing around 3 AM, and Malcolm was born 25 minutes later, beating the doctor by a couple of minutes.

Tired but happy new father
After spending about an hour with us, a routine blood test discovered that he was hypoglycemic and very cold, so he was taken to the NICU to get an IV and some warmth. Because he was a bit early and so small - 5 pounds, 3 ounces - he just didn't have enough body fat (takes after his father that way) and glycogen reserves that a normal 40 week baby should have. That and a few other minor-ish problems (minor in the grand scheme of things, major to a brand new parent deprived of her baby) that made the doctors cautious, he ended up staying in various stages of the NICU until yesterday (which meant so did I), when we were finally allowed to bring him home. Now he can be treated like a normal baby - hurrah! He shouldn't have any lasting problems, since they were all basically because he was 3 weeks early and not quite ready to be out in the world, and not anything disabling or systemic.

Trying to get and stay warm
 We are overjoyed to be home as a family at last. Benjamin is glad to not have to drive back and forth to the hospital every day to see us. I am especially glad to be done with beeping monitors (that went off all. the. time.) and decent but bland hospital food! For the record, I refuse to acknowledge the validity of calling anything made with Jell-o a salad, no matter how much fruit is in it.

Home at last!
Oh yes, Benjamin Malcolm Rider is the 11th Benjamin Rider, and will go by his middle name. Yes, he is partially named after Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the Firefly ship Serenity. Yes, we are big geeks.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Happy early birthday Grandma Betty!

Later this month, my grandmother Betty Jean turns 90. Since I will probably be preoccupied by a baby or an impending baby around the actual date, I wanted to wish her a happy birthday a bit early. Besides, by 90 I think you should be able to celebrate for a whole month, don't you? Here are a few pictures - from her wedding day to my grandfather, and from this past year.

Engagement, Spring 1943
She grew up on a farm in Nebraska during the Great Depression and went to college at Hastings College, where she met my grandfather. She left after two years to teach - during the war they needed teachers and she needed money.

Wedding Day, May 14, 1944
After the war, she and my grandfather raised three children. When my mom (the eldest) was in high school, Grandma went back to college to finish her BA, then went for her masters while teaching elementary school. Eventually, she was a reading specialist (like my mother) and taught for 20 years. She is the daughter of a school teacher, her daughter was a  teacher and librarian, and my cousin is a teacher. Who knows what the next generation will bring (currently at 3, with 2 more soon to arrive), but I bet a teacher and/or librarian will be among them!

Beating my mother at Yahtzee. But she had help!

After she and my grandfather retired, they spent many years traveling the world, having adventures hiking and bird watching. She even hiked the Grand Canyon in her 60s, twice!

When each of us grand kids was old enough, we got to spend a week with Grandma and Grandpa, alone, doing fun things with them. On my trip, we rode the steam train up to the Grand Canyon and went on hikes around Sedona, where they lived.

Happy Birthday Grandma Betty! Thank you for all the love and support you have given me over the years - I am so blessed to know you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Huzzah! We had rain yesterday, real, honest-to-goodness rain! The street gutters were overflowing in small rivers at lunch time, and again when I got home in the afternoon. The trees and bushes in the yard no longer look sad and dry and bedraggled, and when I got up this morning, the ground was still wet! It wasn't enough to get the state out of a drought or extreme fire danger, but it was enough that I don't have to worry about watering for a few days. Ahh...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Just trying to stay cool

So, it is hot here in Arkansas. Yup. We've been right around 100 degrees for most of the last two weeks. At some point, we were hotter than Phoenix. Benjamin has decided not to let the heat stop him, since the world is warming and it will likely be this way every summer from now on, and played tennis 4 of 5 days this week (and then wondered why he was so drained, and ate 1/4 of a large watermelon in one sitting). If I wasn't quite so pregnant, I might be doing the same, but as it is, I can barely stand to walk the dog around our hill at 6 in the morning when it is only 75.

To go along with the heat issues, one of our city's wells has failed, and while there is plenty of water for home use and fire fighting, the water company has put in place a water conservation plan until a new well comes online. This means we aren't supposed to water our lawns or use irrigation systems at all. Now, we never water our lawn, but we do water all the bushes in the yard, not to mention the vegetable garden. I was told, via email, that I could water the vegetables and not be cited for non-compliance as long as nobody complained, but when I went to fill a watering can last night, the outdoor water had been turned off. I think we can turn it back on, as long as it isn't locked, but I'm not sure why the company felt the need to turn off the water. I assume they turned everyone's water off, maybe to drive home the message, but it seems a bit much.

I am seriously considering planting cactus and other desert plants that don't need any water. Stupid drought.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Crystal Bridges statuary

Shore Lunch, Dan Ostermiller, 1999
 One of the great features of the Crystal Bridges Museum is the network of trails that surrounds the buildings. When we planned our trip, we built in time to take a hike on the various trails and see what there was to see. Like the rest of the grounds, there were lots of flowers, and well-designed trails. There was also art, which is appropriate, since it is an art museum and all. I didn't get pictures of everything, but here are some of the works we saw on the hike.

These two photos of boulders take a little explanation. The boulder in the photo above is art, as shown by the number and (not visible in this photo) the word "ART" that have been attached to it. It is part of an installation called Grains of Sand by Robert Tannen, that is designed as a sort of scavenger hunt on the grounds.

The thing is, the art boulders are made of the native stone that also is found all over the grounds, like the other boulder, above, which was situated directly next to one of the ART boulders. I try to be open and appreciative to art of all kinds, but I have to admit myself a bit mystified over these boulders. They certainly made us laugh a bit, and they made us think, and I guess that is the point, what makes them art? Anyway, we had a chuckle every time we discovered one.

Stella, Andre Harvey, 2009
Stella here typifies the problem with outdoor art - you want to run over and pet her snout, and climb on her back, but the museum doesn't want her to be damaged by constant contact with grimy hands. Makes sense, but it was torture to not rub an ear. They shouldn't have made her so cute!

Group of Bears, Paul Manship, modeled 1932, cast 1999
We had to hike a bit farther than we though to see these lovely creatures - the scale on the map is not quite accurate. They were apparently meant for the Bronx Zoo, but not cast at the time. You can definitely see the Art Deco influence in their lines. I would have liked to pet them too.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Flowers at Crystal Bridges

The first thing I noticed when we got out of the car at the Crystal Bridges Museum were all the flowers. The museum itself is in a sort of gorge or valley - you park above it and walk down to it. All along the parking lot and the hillside around the building were lovely flower gardens.

I was very impressed at how vibrant and non-droopy everything was, considering how parched my own garden is by this time of year. The gardeners (and sprinkler system) there must be top-notch.

I can't remember what this purple flower is, and it was sort of hard to capture on camera because it was on long fluffy stalks and wouldn't sit still in the wind.

This pink flower is just a little out of place - its fellows were one bed over. 

There were quite a few butterflies and bees enjoying the flowers too.

The flowers were a lovely introduction to the museum and preparation for the art inside.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Baby's Room or, It's really green

So, here is the baby's room. There may be more posters on the wall in the future, and I am sure there will be other baby things taking up space, but for now this is about as finished as it is going to be. The dusty piece of furniture to the left of the picture is a bookshelf, which is securely fastened to the wall - I fully expect this baby to be a climber. Off camera to the right is our old dresser. The desk in the back right corner is my grandmother's antique writing desk; I don't plan to leave it there forever, but it seemed as good a place as any for now. The framed item over the desk is one of two day-packs that my grandmother gave me; she and my grandfather used them in their many hikes around Arizona and all over the world, and covered them in patches from all those places. There is a second one hanging over the bookshelf.

Oliver was helping inspect the crib. He can jump into it from the ground without touching the sides. Impressive. I doubt he will be as interested once a squalling baby takes up residence. For now though, he rather enjoys the room.